In The Know: Speaker derails bill targeting gays in the National Guard

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that a bill to reinstate the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the Oklahoma National Guard has been effectively shelved. A bill to require drug tests for TANF recipients passed a House subcommittee. TANF currently helps support about 5,000 adults and 20,000 children in Oklahoma. In 2009 OK Policy wrote about why a previous version of this measure is unnecessary, expensive, and counterproductive.

A second study has further debunked a report being relied on by those wanting to abolish the income tax. A new OK Policy fact sheet summarizes the numerous flaws in this report, which produced by Arthur Laffer and the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. Find more on the income tax debate at our tax reform information page.

The OKC School Board expressed frustration that they are still unclear about many specifics of a plan by the State Department of Education to identify and possibly take over failing schools. A Senate panel passed a measure that would increase the units of math required to graduate high school. Oklahoma is running out of a drug it uses to execute inmates, leaving the state looking at options to put people to death for capital crimes.

The Number of the Day is the amount of income for married couples that is not taxed in Oklahoma because of the standard deduction. OK Policy previously corrected false claims that Oklahomans’ first dollar of income is taxed. In today’s Policy Note, Governing reports that prison populations in the U.S. have declined for the first time in nearly four decades.

In The News

Speaker derails bill targeting gays in the National Guard

A bill to reinstate the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the Oklahoma National Guard has been effectively shelved, an advocacy group said Monday. The proposal by state Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, would have backdated legal standards to be in the Guard to a time when gays and lesbians could not openly serve in the U.S. military. On Monday, House Speaker Kris Steele announced that he had taken the bill out of the House Veterans and Military Affairs Committee and had reassigned it to the Rules Committee. Because Rules Committee Chairman Gary Banz, R-Midwest City, is not expected to give the bill a committee hearing, the reassignment essentially means that it is dead. John Estus, a spokesman for Steele, said senior state military officials have expressed concerns to multiple House members that the proposal would jeopardize federal funding for the Oklahoma National Guard.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

Bill to drug test Oklahomans passes subcommittee

Adults receiving welfare assistance would have to undergo a drug test under a measure approved Monday by a legislative panel. HB 2388 would require adults applying for welfare assistance to be tested before they could receive money through the federal cash-assistance Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. The recipients would be responsible for the cost of the test, which they would recoup in their assistance if they qualify. Cost would range from about $30 to $45, with tests done in rural areas costing the most. Oklahoma’s Department of Human Services already screens clients for drug and alcohol abuse and requires testing if the screening indicates it is necessary, said Sandra Harrison, the agency’s chief administrative officer. Those who test positive are sent for treatment but are allowed to receive the benefit, she said; the assistance is taken away if the recipient stops going to work or school. “You can’t sit at home,” she said. About 5,000 adults get assistance from the program, Harrison said. About 20,000 children receive the assistance. Of the 5,000 adults, about 3,000 are screened for drugs; about 5 percent test positive.

Read more from NewsOK.

Previously: If it ain’t broke, don’t break it from the OK Policy Blog

Laffer and OCPA debunked again

The push to eliminate Oklahoma’s personal income tax relies heavily for intellectual support on a study done for the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs by economist Arthur Laffer and his colleagues. The Laffer report makes two claims: (1) that states without an income tax enjoy stronger economic growth, and (2) that abolishing the income tax would boost Oklahoma’s economy to such a great extent that the state would recapture a major share of lost revenue and not have to slash core services. Last week, we reported on a study from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) showing that when more accurate indicators of economic growth are used, states without an income tax are doing no better than other states, including Oklahoma. A follow-up ITEP study now reveals that Laffer’s second claim regarding the economic growth that will result from eliminating the income tax is equally dubious. Together, the debunking of its two main economic arguments leaves the OCPA proposal tottering.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

See also: Don’t be fooled by junk economics: OCPA/Laffer tax cut plan contains serious flaws from Oklahoma Policy Institute

Oklahoma City School Board wants details from state about possible school takeovers

As many as 24 Oklahoma City schools could be taken over by the state Education Department under a new plan that would identify failing schools statewide. But members of the Oklahoma City School Board expressed frustration Monday night that the plan isn’t clear enough. Cindy Schmidt, chief academic officer, and Terry Fraley, executive director of federal programs, presented the board with information about the state’s new grading systems for schools. Schools that fell into the lowest category were required to submit requests to avoid takeover this month, but the details of who will grade the applications and how are still unknown, Schmidt and Fraley said. Monson said the request failed to ask how school and district officials planned to improve the situation.

Read more from NewsOK.

Senate panel OKs increasing math requirements for Oklahoma students

A Senate panel on Monday passed a measure that would increase the units of math required to graduate high school to four from three. It would include remedial mathematics if a student needs it, according to the measure. Senate Bill 1818 by Sen. Jim Halligan, R-Stillwater, passed the Senate Education Committee by a vote it 12-2. It heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee. Halligan said previous efforts to increase the number of required math units have been defeated in the House. Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Keith Ballard said he is not opposed to the proposal but that the issue should be left to local school boards to decide. Ballard said it would be hard to say whether the measure would have additional costs. The district would have to hire more math teachers, which would result in cutting teachers in other areas.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

Oklahoma running out of drug used for executions

Oklahoma is running out of a drug it uses to execute inmates, leaving the state looking at options to put people to death for capital crimes. Under the law, the state could try to find a substitute drug. If an appellate court finds an injection of lethal chemicals unconstitutional, Oklahoma’s default option is electrocution, but the state prisons chief said Monday he doesn’t believe courts would permit that. The firing squad is the other option allowed under the law. Oklahoma has four doses remaining of pentobarbital, an anesthetic drug that manufacturers have objected to selling for use in executions, Department of Corrections Director Justin Jones said. Two executions are set for next month, and it’s not clear what Oklahoma would do if it exhausts its supply. “The manufacturers don’t want to sell it for that use,” Jones told The Associated Press. “I think you’re going to see that for decades to come.”

Read more from the Associated Press.

Quote of the Day

There is a theory that we’ll reduce them and our growth will cover, but it’s a little bit like jumping off a cliff and hoping there’s water at the bottom of it.
Rep. Cory Williams, D-Stillwater, on the push to further cut Oklahoma’s income tax.

Number of the Day


The amount of income for married couples that is not taxed in Oklahoma because of the standard deduction.

Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Prison counts decline as states enact reforms

A flurry of legislation in recent years has taken aim at reducing growing prison populations, one of states’ most costly endeavors. There’s now evidence their efforts are paying off, with the Bureau of Justice Statistics reporting the nation’s prison population dipped in 2010 – the first annual decline in nearly four decades. States pursued a range of reforms, from cutting sentences for nonviolent offenders to boosting community supervision programs. Yet most experts are unsure if the reduced prisoner totals signal a permanent shift in how states punish offenders. “It’s too early to tell if this is a tap on the breaks or a shift in reverse,” said Adam Gelb, director of the Pew Center on the States’ Public Safety Performance Project. Federal and state authorities accounted for about 1.6 million prisoners at the end of the year — a drop of less than 1 percent. The decline marked the first annual decrease since 1972.

Read more from Governing.

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Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

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